Everyday Gardeners

Plant. Grow. Live.

August 2010

ablogYou’ve probably never heard of Spring Meadow Nursery, a great company in beautiful Western Michigan, but I bet you’ve heard of some of their plants: ‘Limelight’ hydrangea, Sugar Tip rose of Sharon, Pinky Winky hydrangea, Blue Chiffon rose of Sharon (shown here), Incrediball hydrangea, Bloomerang lilac, Quick Fire hydrangea, and Summer Wine ninebark are a few of the shrubby garden superstars they’re responsible for introducing.

I went on a tour of their nursery over the weekend and I’ve come home even more excited about using flowering shrubs in the garden. Want more color in your landscape? These plants make it easy! Try growing a sun-loving Limelight hydrangea as a small tree next to your deck, creating a hedge of rose of Sharon for privacy, or including a flowering quince in your cutting garden.

Incorporate compact shrubs in your perennial beds so you have winter structure and an extra season of interest. Amethyst coral berry (Symphoricarpos), for example offers pinky-purple fruits in fall; Arctic Sun redtwig dogwood bears bold reddish stems in winter; and Snow Day Surprise pearlbush (Exochorda) bursts into bloom in early spring. All dwarf (5 feet tall or less) so they’ll fit right in among purple coneflower, Joe Pye weed, and hollyhock.

I know a lot of garders who like to separate their plants — perennials go in this bed, shrubs over there, and the like. But don’t be afraid to mix and match to create wonderful combinations!

BTW: If you have a great perennial/shrub combo, I’d love to see it! Post it here!

Earlier this year I had the pleasure of working with the International Society of Arboriculture on a really cool program they call True Professionals.

At some point, virtually all of us need tree work done — whether it’s helping choose the right tree to plant, diagnosing a tree with problems, or pruning a large, beautiful shade tree. When you need help like that, you want to be sure you find the best person for the job — and that’s where True Professionals come in. The ISA brought in a panel of folks from the tree industry and related fields to go through applications and pick the best in the business. I was honored with being one of the judges!

The 2010 winners are:

  • Dr. Bill Fountain of Lexington, KY
  • Steve Geist of Denver, CO
  • Tanja Grmovsek of Maribor, Slovenia
  • Scott Prophett of Loganville, GA
  • Mike Robinson of Jacksonville, FL

These amazing folks are the best of the best in the world of trees and tree care and serve as great role models for other arboriculturists. Congratulations to them!

blogasteryellowsIf you grow coneflowers, this may look familiar — the cone looks green and kind of misshapen.

If you’ve seen this before, you’ve seen aster yellows. It’s a fairly common diseases that affects a lot of flowers in the daisy family, including coneflower, black-eyed Susan, goldenrod, marigold, and zinnia.

Aster yellows is most pronounced during periods of hot weather, and I see it most in my garden when it’s wet. The disease is spread by insects — nasty little leafhoppers.

Unfortunately, the disease is more than just cosmetic — eventually your plants will succumb to it. Because aster yellows is spread by insects (and because there’s no real treatment for the disease), it’s advisable to remove infected plants as soon as you notice them — otherwise it may attack your other garden plants.

Sure, I’d heard about the tuberous begonias from the world-famous English nursery Blackmore and Langdon, but I didn’t believe it until I saw them for myself in a greenhouse display during a visit last spring to White Flower Farm in Litchfield, Connecticut. The plants’ luminous colors, flower size, exquisite shapes, and long season of bloom put lesser strains to shame. Here is their upright variety ‘Sugar Candy’ in a pot on my front porch yesterday. It’s been blooming its head off for at least three months now. It’s a fine, clear pink and extremely floriferous. All they need is well-drained soil and indirect light (and no extreme temperatures). Truly. And I adore begonias of all types—wax begonias, angel-leaf, fancy-leaf varieties—ever since my 7th grade science teacher dubbed me with the unfortunate nickname Begonia. Thank goodness it didn’t stick.

blogblackpearlHere’s a real “wow” plant for you! ‘Black Pearl’ ornamental pepper. Enjoy it for its dark foliage in spring and early summer — then the grape-sized round black fruits enchant in summer before they put on a real show and turn dazzling red in early autumn. It’s one of my favorite varieties — a staple in my garden (and an All-America Selections winner back in 2006!).

A mushroom came up in my potted canna/creeping Jenny combination. It’s pretty, in a way. (As opposed to the creeping Jenny that the leaf cutter bees have decimated, as you can see in photo.) Not sure what to make of it, though. Some people here in the office think that means gnomes have taken up residence. I dunno.

Mushroom in my container

Mushroom in my container

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